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Researchers: Eating Berries May Improve Brain Function in Older Women

Adding more berries to your diet may preserve brain function, according to a recent study conducted by Harvard researchers and published Thursday in the Annals of Neurology. The study revealed that older women who reportedly ate more blueberries and strawberries displayed less-rapid cognitive deterioration as they aged.

Doctors, health magazines, and fitness trainers have long instructed the public about the importance of eating fruits and berries, claiming the health benefits of most berries include improved eye sight, strengthened blood vessels, and boosting the immune system. According to the Harvard study, an improvement in brain functioning is yet another benefit to add to the list. The study involved a group of participants who filled out questionnaires and provided other details about their eating habits every two to four years since 1980. The researchers used this information to conclude that the participants who ate the most berries had preserved more cognitive functioning than those who had a lower berry intake. Certain cases showed that eating enough berries could even help conserve these brain functions for an additional two years. According to Dr. Elizabeth Devore of Harvard Medical School, “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”

Researchers believe that a possible cause of this correlation between berry intake and cognitive functioning is the anthocyanidins that are found in abundance in blueberries and strawberries. These common plant pigments often act as antioxidants, which have been proven to help enhance brain functions but only for a short term.

The results of the study are certainly exciting for researchers, but more investigation still needs to be done. Dr. Clifford Saper, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical, points out that “This is an association or correlation. It is not proof of causality.” In other words, simply because there is a correlation does not necessarily mean the berries are the cause of the improved cognitive performance. There are several outside factors to consider, such as the fact that those who reportedly ate more berries also had overall healthier lifestyles than those who did not eat berries. In addition, the research was only performed using women, not a single man was involved in the study. So despite the fact that berries are still a delicious treat with many health benefits, whether or not eating berries will help delay cognitive deterioration is still up for debate.

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